An impressive comeback by Geelong saw them run over the top of the fast-starting Brisbane Lions at the SCG… yep, the SCG.
The response came from the Cats and was the kind of performance you only witness from teams that truly believe in themselves. Down by 21 points, a lesser team would have conceded. A lesser team would have started thinking about a trip to Perth and a date with the Magpies. A lesser team would have put the cue in the rack.
But this team did what good teams do. they dug deep, started to play the game on their terms and refused to allow the Lions room to operate.
It was very, very impressive.
Here’s The Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly.
Look, he might get suspended for the hit on the boundary that sent Ryan Lester flying, but the first one on Brandon Starcevich had nothing in it.
Yeah, I know this isn’t the look the AFL wants for the game, but seeing that kind of aggression from Rohan… damn it was refreshing!
I’m a little old school and I enjoy watching players who are more than willing to throw their bodies into the action. I like the players that make opponents look over their shoulder when they’re in the vicinity. Some players do with rundown tackles whilst others do it with physical force whenever they’re near the footy.
Gary Rohan fit into the latter category tonight.
He is never going to amass huge numbers, and his 11 touches tonight are one of just 14 times he has hit double figures in the last three seasons, but the way he attacked both the ball in flight and the body of his opponents in this game made a significant impact on the game.
The two goals were a luxury – it was the sustained pressure from Rohan that made him a valuable contributor in this one.
ON A WING AND A PRAYER
Oh, I love when a wingman has a blinder, and that’s what Sam Menegola had tonight.
For the third straight week, Menegola was brilliant. It was his goal that got the Cats rolling and they simply didn’t stop. As good as he has been over the last few weeks (pushing into the top four in our overall wingman rankings… if you’re not a member, you’re missing out on this) he was at his absolute best this week.
He ran at 92% efficiency for his 26 touches and worked at both ends of the ground to aid his team. When I watch Menegola play, he looks like the perfect football. Or at least the perfect wingman.
His foot skills are brilliant, he makes good decision, is excellent above his head, and when you see him bob up in defence to help out, then a minute later see him set sail for home from 50, you know how hard he is working. He is technically flawless with the footy in hand and looks statuesque when he has the ball – perfect posture.
Both during the game and the post-match, I heard one of the presenters (Kath something…) state that Mitch Duncan is the highest rated wingman in the competition. I’ll tell you something for free, mate – Duncan hasn’t lined up on a wing for weeks. It has been Cam Guthrie and this bloke, Sam Menegola, and if you want to know who the highest rated wingman in the competition is, forget Champion Data – they’re telling you Duncan is a wingman no matter where he plays because that’s what they categorised him as at the start of the season. Menegola is actually playing on the wing, and for the past three weeks, he has been unbelievably good.
THE OLD BLOKES LIFT
Let’s do a comparison.
In the first half, the combination of Lachie Neale and Dayne Zorko combined to arguably be the best two players on the ground. Neale was everywhere, amassing 12 touches, whilst Zorko had the lazy 14. The Geelong midfield were getting beaten, and the clash in the middle had been pivotal.
So when you need a lift, you look to your leaders.
That’s what Geelong did in the third quarter as the pair of Patrick Dangerfield and Joel Selwood picked up the Cats’ onball department and threw them on their back.
Dangerfield had nine disposals for the quarter and Selwood added five, but it was their work at stoppages that stood out. Between them, Dangerfield and one of the greatest captains I have ever seen (yep, he’s that good!) collected eight clearances between them for the quarter. Not only did they get plenty of the footy, themselves, they also prevented the engine room of the Lions from getting started after the break.
Neale had zero clearances in the third and Zorko managed one. As the Cats powered forward, the Brisbane midfield wound up bogged on the side of the road.
The Lions looked shell-shocked and the old heads of the Geelong Footy Club took advantage. They were harder at it and relentless in their pursuit of the footy for the entire quarter and… well, they don’t call it the premiership quarter for no reason, right?
Dangerfield and Selwood stepped up. Neale and Zorko stepped aside.
Can we take a moment to shift our focus away from the players who will get the press tomorrow because they’re midfielders and turn it to a bloke down back who was played on the wing in the finals last year (eek!) and is now back doing what he does best – stopping the rot in defence.
Mark Blicavs is a two-time Carji Greeves medallist and a deserving one as well. In a competition that, let’s be honest, fails to reward the efforts of the defenders, Blicavs has been a standout for his team over the last few years, and with names like Dangerfield, Selwood, Ablett and Farmer amongst the multiple winners of the Geelong Best and Fairest award, he is currently sitting amid some of the greatest names the club has produced. They don’t just hand this award out to anyone!
Let’s head back to the third quarter again for a second. Whilst the Cats midfield got on top and controlled the majority of the play, whenever the ball ventured past the half forward line for the Lions, Blicavs was there to meet it.
Brisbane’s big forward threats were Charlie Cameron (I’ll get to that match up in a second), Eric Hipwood and Daniel McStay. With Cameron making the acquaintance of Jed Bews, Mark Blicavs and Harry Taylor took responsibility for the other two.
That’s how I’ll refer to them in regard to the third quarter – the other two.
The other two managed zero possessions between them for the quarter, failing to fire a shot as the Geelong defence stormed out of the back 50 with apparent ease. Blicavs was the defensive captain back there, steering this ship into safe waters and ripping the heart from the chest of the Brisbane forward line.
He is a man that has made himself into a very good footballer after starting his sporting life as a track and field athlete, and after watching he and Mr Taylor destroy the other two in the third quarter, he made the right decision to give this AFL thing a crack – it turns out he is pretty good at it.
THE SMALL FORWARD KILLER
Jed Bews has a bit of a reputation in footy circles. Apparently, he likes to rub peanut butter on himself and then… nah, I’m kidding. He is the defender the Cats look to when they need to shut down a star small forward. He has made a living out of rendering Eddie Betts useless.
And he did the job again tonight.
Charlie Cameron looked dangerous early in the piece. With three touches and a couple of pings at goal, Cameron loomed as the potential match winner for the Lions. A little too quick for Blicavs when he changed directions, Chris Scott wisely pulled the trigger and sent Bews to take care of Cameron.
And when I say “take care of him” I mean in the way a Mafia dude would take care of someone. Whilst Charlie Cameron still lives and breathes, make no mistake… Jed Bews killed him.
Over three quarters, Charlie touched the footy three times. Yes, one was a goal, but with Jed Bews paying Cameron attention, Charlie quickly went from the potential match winner to a bloke who might bob up here or there…if he was lucky.
Bews is another who possibly will not get the plaudits he deserves, but with another small forward victim, he added to his reputation again tonight.
His football reputation… I don’t know what he plans to do with peanut butter…
Never heard of him…
Well, Mr Burns, if you’ve never heard of him, you may soon enough. At 22, Sam Simpson has just seven games under his belt, but he showed the kind of poise and composure (which are kind of the same thing) in this one that was more akin to a 100+ gamer.
Simpson collected 27 disposals and laid five tackles in an impressive outing that will all but guarantee another go-round next week. With both Narkle and Duncan seemingly looking as though they’ll be out, this is the sort of opportunity that simply doesn’t happen along that often.
In a very solid side, Simpson put his best foot forward with a solid performance, playing both wing and half back. Now that a couple of injuries have surfaced, Simpson has the chance to solidify his place in the side for the short term at least with another crack next week in a marquee game.
TOO MANY GONE MISSING
When Lachie Neale is struggling to get his hands on the footy, you know something is very, very wrong.
I know I am harping on about this third quarter, but when you have 22 players on a team (most teams do, y’know?) and seven of them have one possession or less for the entire quarter, it does not matter how good the top end talent are – you’re going to get whacked.
The Lions left too much to too few in the third quarter, allowing Geelong to spread the love amongst their entire team.
You’ll like this one – 23 players had two disposals or less in the third quarter. Five of those 23 were Geelong players, and two of those were because they’d been ruled out (Duncan and Narkle). That means that just three of the 20 active players with two or less disposals for the quarter were Cats.
The rest were Lions who were missing in action.
Only Lachie Neale, Jarryd Lyons, Callum Ah Chee and Cam Rayner had more than two touches for the quarter.
The rest were not worth mentioning.
THE ABLETT EULOGY
Sometimes the experts go a little early, don’t they?
A few years ago, veteran journo and serial podcast softy, Mike Sheahan stated that Scott Pendlebury was no longer an A-Grader. It was a stupid call by a bloke speaking before thinking, and he is reminded of it often.
Tonight we heard another great of the commentary booth start ushering in the demise of another all-time great.
Bruce McAvaney is a national treasure but he attempted to work an “old man might be a little past it” trope into his commentary as Ablett had a fumble.
“Struggling” was the word he used to describe Ablett, despite the fact he’d already slammed through a goal earlier.
It was as though Ablett heard McAvaney bury him, as the little master responded with two direct goal assists in a minute that you just know had Bruce swearing under his breath.
Never doubt the heart of a champion, Bruce.
Oh, and also, there is no extra ‘N’ in Menegola. You can get all these African Olympians’ names absolutely perfect, yet Sam Menegola has to put up with you butchering his name every time you call a Geelong game?
Menegola… not Menengola. Get it right – it’s been too long.
CLIP THE WINGS, BEAT THE LIONS?
The run and carry the Lions usually get from McCluggage and Mitch Robinson was virtually non-existent in this game. Yes, I know McCluggage was hurt, but that happened late in the second quarter – prior to that he had touched the footy just four times. Robinson had it nine times in the first half but had just two in the first quarter.
Meanwhile, their opponents were running rampant in the first half, with Menegola and Simpson combining for 24 touches off the wings. Add in Zach Tuohy with 11 as well (he cycled through the wings as well) and what you have is an absolute domination at that position. If you want to see where the Cats had their greatest advantage, check out the wing matchups.
In the last two weeks, the Lions have got a heap of drive from their outside runners and they rammed that advantage home this week.
The Cats got over 1000 metres gained between Tuohy, Simpson and Menegola. The Lions got 434 from the combination of McCluggage, Robinson and Zach Bailey.
IF YOU WERE OFFERED A GOOD TRADE FOR EITHER OF HIPWOOD OR MCSTAY, WHICH ONE WOULD YOU OFFLOAD?
“Neither” is not an option. Choose one.
Let’s say it was a Godfather offer – who do you choose to lose? McStay can clunk the occasional mark, but is prone to go missing. Hipwood doesn’t take marks, but does bob up with the occasional bag. Still, he goes missing as well.
All things considered, McStay is 25 years old and despite looking good last week, does nowhere near enough. Sadly, I don’t think there would be any Godfather offers coming for him. He’s probably worth much more to the Lions than he would be as a trade asset anyway.
Still, gun to my head, I’d offload McStay simply due to the age.
IS JOEL SELWOOD THE GREATEST CAPTAIN SINCE WAYNE CAREY*?
Yes, an asterisk… *Wayne Carey before the Anthony Stevens thing.
I’m a bit of a Luke Hodge fan, personally but I have been so impressed with Selwood over the journey that I cannot help but admire and respect the way he has led this team. The amount of times I have seen him put the Cats on his back and carry them has cemented him in my mind as an all-time great, and I reckon I could be swayed away from Hodgey if Selwood ever added a shiny cup to his captaincy CV.
DID TOM HAWKINS BEAT HARRIS ANDREWS?
Yep, he did. How about that?
Not only did Hawkins wander away from this game with three goals to his name, he also made sure that Andrews had to worry about him at all times. Prior to this game, Andrews was averaging 11.7 spoils (one percenters) per game.
Tonight, he had just six.
Hawkins is so important to this Geelong team – you cannot help but wonder how they would have fared on a September evening last year if he had not have been suspended…
WHAT WERE THE LIONS MISSING?
They recruited Cam Ellis-Yolmen for games exactly like this. They were being pantsed in the midfield in the third and he is the sort of presence that can stand in a tackle, take the contact and either dish off or prevent his opponent from breaking away. I would have loved Chris Fagan to have the option of throwing him onto Dangerfield and watching those two bulls go at it.
Oh, and Luke Hodge. Yes, they picked up Grant Birchall, but in the immortal words of fellow Mongrel, Trent Adam Shields, “Birchall is one of my favourite players of all time, but he’s no Hodge.”
The Brisbane back six started to look really iffy when put under pressure, didn’t they. That turnover from Brandon Starcevich that gifted Hawkins a goal was absolutely telegraphed. Not only did Hawkins make position to cut it off, but Gryan Miers would have got it as well before a Brisbane teammate.
Check out the look Harris Andrews gives Jarrod Berry in the first quarter when he allows Dangerfield to float in front of the pack and mark without any defensive pressure. If looks could kill…
Dayne Zorko really looked like a game changer in the first half. Some of his touches were sublime, but none were better than that gorgeous half volley in the first quarter. He looked sharp!
Lachie Neale’s dribble goal from the boundary is close to goal of the year at this stage. Not sure there is a better kick to watch go through for a goal than those bouncing, curving dribble kicks from the boundary. Just spectacular.
And Zorko’s hands to Neale to set that up were wonderful as well.
Anyone else catch Jarrod Berry completely burn Hugh McCluggage to have a shot from 45 in the second quarter? He missed by McCluggage was wide open and struggling to get into the game. A smart player would have fed him.
I wrote about Rohan’s aggression earlier, but that nice little bump from Zach Tuohy on McCluggage really rocked him and I thought it may have ended his night. Kudos to McCluggage for toughing it out – many others wouldn’t have – but I did love the aggression from Tuohy.
And that’ll do me nicely.
This was a sensational win by the Cats. Look, in all honesty they looked shaky half way through the second quarter, but to their credit, their response was wonderful. It took a lot of belief in both their structures and themselves to get back in this game and run away with it.
They get the Pies next week, which will be a belter.
The Lions had all the hype this week, but this will burst the bubble a little. The Giants at Giants Stadium is no easy task. Looking at the games for next week, I reckon I’ll put my hand up to cover that one.
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